Regarding yeast, that’s false of course - wine without yeast is juice. From my own experience the two places that animal products would normally show up in wine production are in nutrient addition during primary fermentation - food-grade urea and some other animal-derived nutrients are sometimes added - and clarification, for which some winemakers use isinglass, which is scraped from the inside of fish (swim?) bladders.
That’s not to say that wine’s kosher status is dependent solely on its ingredients. Kosher wine has to be made in a specific way by specific people. Read the link for more info.
Kosher wine, obviously, has yeast. The reason it gets the reputation of being horribly sweet is, because for a long time, the major kosher wine company in the US was Manischewitz. Manischewitz uses Concord grapes, which isn’t a really great kind of grape to use for wine, because it has a kind of a strange aftertaste. So, to hide the taste, Manischewitz dumps a lot of sugar into its wine.
Shayna: Your answer is only partially correct in as far as most kosher wine is Meshuval.
‘meshuval: Wine that has been boiled, making it unfit for use in pagan practices. Thus, a non-Jew can handle meshuval wine without making it un-kosher (because there is no chance the gentile would use the wine in a pagan ritual).’
I’m not a wine drinker, but I’ve seen a number of articles about fine kosher wines that indicated that they were available here in the U.S. Some are domestic, to be sure, but I believe that some are imported from Israel.
This isn’t really true, for a couple of reasons:
1.) You CAN make “non-sweet” wine from Labrusca grapes. Several Upstate New York Wineries do so – have a look at some Bully Hill offerings. Most Labrusca wines DO have a taste called “foxiness”, which is NOT sweetness, but another, hard to describe, “smokiness” to the flavor.
Nevertheless, it is true that most Labrusca wines do tend to be sweet. My wife can’t understand my liking for them.
2.) Manischevitz isn’t the only excessively sweet kosher wine. Mogen David is, too. And I emphasize that they don’t have to be that sweet. They’re even sweeter than Widmer Lake Niagara wine.
3.) There must be something about religious wines. The wines we used when I was an altar boy were syrupy sweet. And the wines prodfuced by Barry winery in upstate NY were very sweet. Maybe the clergy, as a group, don’t havbe a lot of oeniphiles among them.
4.) That said, I understand that not all kosher wines are awful, although I don’t know which ones are OK. I do know that not all Cathpolic sacramental wine is awful – especially when parishioners get to donate wines.
You can make non-sweet wines from Labrusca grapes, sure, but like you said, the wines will have the “foxiness”. Both Manischewitz and Mogen David, though,are worried that their customers wouldn’t like the “foxiness”, so to hide the taste, they compensate by adding sugar or corn syrup to the wine, and that’s why those wines are so sweet.
AFAIK, the prohibition applies only to the handling of wine once the bottle has been opened, e.g. if it’s served by a non-Jew (or an insufficiently observant Jew). The kashruth of the wine isn’t affected by the shipping process as long as the bottles stay closed.
Fermentation is the process of turning sugar into alcohol. The more alcohol you make, the less sugar you are left with (residual sugar, as wine makers say). My guess is that altar wine isn’t supposed to be like a Zinfandel (sometimes as much as 16% alcohol), and so it tends to have considerable residual sugar. Good wines will generally balance residual sugar with an appropriate amount of acid so that it doesn’t taste overly sweet, but I would guess once more that this isn’t done for sacramental wine.
When I was an altar boy, we’d use mostly water and just a few drops of wine. But there was one priest who’d keep pushing the chalice towards you to indicate he wanted you to put more wine in. We used to stay away from him back in the vestibule…
The modern process of making wines mevushal involves flash-pasteurization, in which the wine hits the requisite temperature for a very brief time and is then rapidly chilled. By the fact that there are plenty of 14-15% alcohol kosher wines out there, I’m assuming that not much alcohol is boiled off.
FWIW, there are many higher-quality kosher wines (plenty of which aren’t mevushal) from places other than Israel, including France, Italy, California, etc.